Taipan found in suburban Brisbane

Posted on Posted in Backyard, scaly, South East QLD
And now one for all the reptile-lovers out there. Our guest contributor and mad herper Bryan shares a rare and exciting find…

Having lived in Queensland’s south east for 17 years and providing snake relocation services I’ve heard more than my fair share of supposed ‘taipan’ sightings in properties throughout Brisbane’s western suburbs and Ipswich. Amongst the hundreds of suspected taipans none have ever eventuated in this highly overstated species…until now.

The Coastal Taipan found in Pullenvale, 15km from Brisbane CBD (photo by B. Robinson)

Found caught in a fence in Pullenvale, approximately 15 kilometres from the Brisbane CBD, this 1500 mm male Coastal Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) represents the first ever record for the Brisbane western suburbs and the closest ever record to inner Brisbane. The species is considered very rare within the south east with only a handful of reliable records within the greater Brisbane and Ipswich areas over the past 25 years. Having seen road kill Taipan’s in Weipa, Tully and Rockhampton a specimen from a new locality within the south east represents a significant and exciting find for this rapidly aging herper! So significant is this snake for the region it featured on Seven News Brisbane before being lodged with the Queensland Museum.

The Coastal Taipan is the world’s third most venomous land snake. Historically its range extends from northern New South Wales, through eastern Queensland and across the top end of Australia. It averages around 2.3 metres in length but is known to have reached 3 metres. Adult specimens are fast moving effective hunters of large rodents and bandicoots.

In the south east the species records show a clear restriction to suitable habitat within the foothills of ranges such as the D’Aguillar Range. The specimen found at Pullenvale was found within a property that encompassed the southern most foothills of the range extending south from the D’Aguillar.

Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of people mistakenly believe the snake in their backyard or home is a taipan. In actual fact this species is highly alert, very agile and quick to avoid conflict with humans and larger animals. This means that the taipan is rarely seen even in the north of its range where it is believed to be much more common.

To brush up on your identification skills check the Wildlife QLD website, which provides an excellent guide to the most commonly encountered snakes in south east Queensland. If you have a snake you want identified send your photo to info@wildlifeqld.com.au.

11 thoughts on “Taipan found in suburban Brisbane

  1. I realise there would be a dramatic decline in numbers since I was a kid, however an elderly man by the name of Mr Honkey used to catch tiapans for the Queensland uni in Enogerra Creek at The Gap, only 5 miles from the G.P.O. in the early sixties.

    1. Hey Cam, thanks for your comment.

      Since making known this record I’ve have had over 30 individuals present me anecdotal reports of Taipan’s from localities all over Brisbane. The problem being not one has been able to substantiate the claim with any solid evidence to support the identification or locality of the specimens they speak of.

      Personally i would love to see more specimens reliably added to the existing record. However, with a strong emphasis on accountability in the scientific realm to support such claims the need for solid evidence is paramount to the inclusion of all suggested identifications or locality data. Given the known record for the greater Brisbane region it would be far more probable that the species Mr Honkey claims were Taipans were most likely Eastern Brown Snakes, which even today are prevalent in areas of the The Gap and furthermore throughout Brisbane. In light of current data and the historical infrequency of Taipans in SE Qld this would present a more probable conclusion. In saying that if evidence to the contrary is available I’m sure the addition of such records would be readily embraced by the scientific community and would have a worthy contribution to understanding the known distribution of the species locally.

    2. Sighted, what I believe to be this snake, Coastal taipan, 1200 to 1500 mm, light copper colour, with lighter small head this afternoon near Paten Park, The Gap. Fast moving, scaling not prominent. I observed it as it travelled along the back of the house, found cover and then poked its head out to eyeball me. I stayed 5 m away.

  2. Bryan, finding a Taipan near Brisbane, does not mean they are there in a true sense, as in historically part of the local fauna.
    The snake may well be a vagrant, as in one brought in from elsewhere, or even progeny of a vagrant. The same occurs with Red-bellied Black Snakes, not a part of the Melbourne fauna, but regularly turning up here.
    Outnumbering these are Brisbane Carpet Snakes a common find by snake catchers in Melbourne and again definitely not a native.
    Due to the unreliability of past data, the true story of Taipans in SE Qld may never be known.
    However, my guess is that they may NOT be a part of the original Brisbane fauna.
    All the best
    Snake man Raymond Hoser

    1. Thanks Raymond for your feedback. My understanding as an ecologist of “known” distribution as opposed to “probable” distribution entails a number of factors not necessarily reflected by locality data alone of actual specimens. Additional considerations when determining probable species distribution include such things as known habitat connectivity, naturally occurring and artificial barriers to movement, changing environmental conditions and as in this case the proximity of known specimens.
      This Taipan record considers all these factors and ticks all the boxes as being accepted as a genuine record. The locality of previous records as recent as the last 15 – 20 years show contiguous landscape features including both habitat communities and topographical consistencies linked to known Taipan habitat. This record comes from a locality deemed the southern most edge of probable taipan habitat in the region.
      The assertion of a vagrant animal must always be considered for any record unless additional factors exclude or decrease the likelihood of that being the case. I would suggest you are right in saying the Brisbane Carpet Pythons you catch in Melbourne qualify as genuine vagrants as no reliable records would substantiate otherwise. The high number of this species being kept in suburban homes by private keepers would undoubtedly see escaped animals being recovered by unsuspecting neighbors. I picked up two black headed pythons in suburban Brisbane last week from to separate suburbs which i would qualify as vagrants also. However as im sure you are aware, Coastal Taipans are kept by only a small handful of keepers for obvious reasons. The probability of a vagrant in this case or progeny thereof would seem highly unlikely when opposed to naturally occurring factors which deem the likelihood of this being an endemic Taipan at a locality at the edge of its range an acceptable objective conclusion.

  3. Someone will have to tell all the taipans I used to see at Mount Crosby (near kholo) they shouldn’t be there. If you know how to identify eastern browns (to start with when they rear up the orange spots are pretty hard to miss) there are quite a few differences. I agree that most are exaggerated EB’s but I believe they survive in the brisbane hinterland.

    1. Hi Rueben. i dont think i can upload pics to this comment box but if i could you would clearly see that Taipans (including the Pullenvale specimen) too have the orange spots on the ventral surface.

      Go to http://www.snakecatchers.com.au/Coastal_Taipan.php to view the specimen from Pullenvale and note the ventral markings..

      Interesting you mention Mt Crosby as i have caught many browns from their over the past 17 years. It to has some significant expanses of “Taipanesque” habitat. Maybe someday we might get a record from there but to date no cigar.

  4. Bryan,
    I can assure you that the snake I saw yesterday hiding inside the garden bed 4 meters from my kitchen was one;
    should I happen to get a picture or better a scale record, i will contact you
    I live on a sizeable property in Samford at the foot of the range
    I saw another one a year or so ago but further from the house;
    colour was olive green, and indeed he went away when we met…

    1. Hi Oliver – Yep if you can get a picture I will pass this on to Bryan. Always difficult to verify without hard evidence!

  5. I was delivering water to a property at cedar Creek about 2 months ago. There was a very large chocolate colored snake on the side of the road moving towards the road in the direction of the water truck. It was quite big. I would estimate at least 2 metres – maybe significantly bigger. But the striking feature of this big chocolate brown colored snake is that it had a cream colored head. I didn’t see the shape of its head, but was amazed to see a big brown with a cream colored head.

    It’s a pity I couldn’t have stopped to have a closer look, particularly at its head, but I had 13 tonne of water on a slight incline.

    I’m wondering what your thoughts are on what type of snake this big fella may have been. It was an awesome sight.

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